Making it up as you go along

Lots of my author friends are posting this meme, thinking it’s a silly criticism.

But it isn’t.

I’ve read books that felt like the author had no point. Scenes were unneeded, plotlines rambled, and it was like a kid playing with toys making it up as they went along with no idea how it would end.

It’s a valid criticism.

The “just making it up” applies to all fiction. It’s the “as they went along” part that is a valid critique.

It’s possible to write a good book as you go along but it should never read like you did that.

I outline my books very sparingly, setting things up so that the plot follows logically and everything fits like it should. But when I start writing, sometimes I find the plot veering off in different directions and if it feels like that’s what it should do, I go along. But I always end up at my destination and hit the points inbetween.

But really, how the book gets completed isn’t important. You can write it out of order; you can have an outline; you can make it up as you go along. All that matters is the final version.

But if the final version feels like the story is going nowhere and is just rambling, then you’ve failed. If it ends without a satisfying conclusion because it wasn’t going anywhere, if the characters are the same at the end as they were at the beginning without having changed based on what happened, if no problem was solved or plotline resolved … then yeah, it’s going to be an unsatisfying book.

With good editing, you can make it work. The process isn’t important. The story is. If the story makes the reader go “Yeah? So? It just rambled all over the place,” it’s a failure even if you had outlined it that way!

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